Over the last year, HR teams have been working diligently to help their organizations adjust to changing protocols due to the pandemic.
Whether their companies transitioned to a completely remote model or are working part-time in offices, HR managers have needed to ensure they have the correct information to make the best decisions for their organizations while balancing employee safety and regulatory compliance. Already working tirelessly to keep up with ever-changing legal mandates at state and federal levels to maintain compliance, the fluctuating COVID-19 rules and regulations added on top of this has meant HR teams are inundated with information and have to juggle to make informed decisions.
With so many changes occurring on what seems to be a daily or weekly basis, HR teams face a slippery slope: if they focus too much on compliance, they cannot help their colleagues and other employees within the company succeed and ensure their well-being. Leveraging workforce management technology that automates much of the regulatory portion of their jobs means they can put their energy toward strategic people initiatives such as building inclusive and diverse cultures or developing future leaders and career pathways, essentially putting the “human” back in human resources. With less time devoted to laborious tasks and more time to focus on what matters, HR managers are better equipped to help their teams thrive in safe, welcoming work environments—whether remote, in-person, or both.
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How COVID-19 changed the HR function
Within the past year, HR departments across industries have had to educate themselves about the COVID-19 virus and how it would impact their company and its employees. Working with business leaders, HR teams have been charged with making decisions as to whether working remotely or in a hybrid model would make the most sense for their teams, both from a safety perspective and in terms of ensuring productivity. For example, in industries where in-person attendance is required to complete job functions, such as healthcare, manufacturing and construction, HR teams have needed to rapidly implement protocols based on state and federal mandates to prioritize safety, like enforcing social distancing measures, and securing and providing personal protective equipment (PPE). In industries where most employees could work effectively from home, HR teams have scrambled to set up infrastructure to ensure employees have the required equipment to complete their tasks. In both cases, these duties have fallen on top of an already-full plate.
With so many COVID-19 responsibilities being passed to HR departments, it can happen easily that HR managers focus entirely on compliance. While this is a critical part of the job, homing in on compliance only could lead to less attention paid to ensuring employees are feeling and doing okay—mentally and emotionally—as they continue to deal with abrupt changes to their work environment and unsettling news about current events.
To control the regulatory aspect of the job, HR teams can look to workforce management tools that streamline and automate compliance processes, allowing HR members to turn their attention to elevating the “human” aspect of their jobs in their day-to-day roles.
Why Workforce Management Tools Are Necessary in 2021 and Beyond
COVID-19 shined a spotlight on the way companies think about work. For example, Salesforce recently announced that employees can work remotely if they choose once the pandemic subsides, instead of working in an office full-time. As more companies look to see if and how they can adopt a more flexible model to give employees more freedom, HR teams can help business leaders think about how they can balance business needs with employees’ personal needs.
Regulations are still changing in 2021, a trend that doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down. For example, state and federal lawmakers put regulations into effect in 2020 that were set to expire at the end of the year. However, not all of these laws expired, prompting HR teams to use a lot of time and manpower to determine which laws did, and which still require their compliance.
Moreover, some of these regulations apply to certain industries or companies that employ a specific number of people. Additionally, for companies that have a presence in multiple locations, a workforce management system is crucial. In thinking about time and attendance laws, for example, they vary widely from state to state. To ensure compliance across state lines, workforce management tools can help HR departments stay up to speed on any changes, giving them a more streamlined way to assign requested time off, for example.
With a workforce management system in place, HR teams are freed up to add substantial value to their fellow colleagues’ lives, both personally and professionally, and to the company itself. Otherwise, they risk being stuck in a loop of balancing contact tracing efforts and keeping up with the constant changes in law, or they may find themselves audited if they are not compliant with state and federal regulations.
HR’s role has changed tremendously over the last year, with COVID-19 revealing how much time is spent on compliance measures. With the help of workforce management tools, HR teams can focus their attention on helping employees flourish—putting “human” back in human resources, once and for all.